Biden, Palin Debate With Smiles, Folksy Lingo

Experts decode what it meant when Joe Biden and Sarah Palin blink, wink, smile.

ByABC News
October 3, 2008, 11:37 AM

Oct. 3, 2008 — -- Want to know when Sarah Palin got under Joe Biden's skin? He flashed that high-beam grin or scratched his neck.

Wondering which issues made Palin squirm? Keep an eye on her fast-paced blinks and raised eyebrows. asked several body language experts to analyze Thursday night's vice presidential debate -- picking apart every wrinkled nose, winked eye, pointed finger and nuanced voice inflection.

Overall, the experts concluded that Palin's demeanor and gestures showed she started out nervous but quickly gained confidence, even if the Alaska governor's folksy lingo turned off some voters.

Biden's 35-year career in the Senate prepared him well for the debate, during which experts said he seemed more reserved than usual. While declining to attack Palin straight on, the Delaware Democrat restrained himself by putting his hand in his pocket and taking deep breaths.

Palin's Wink

Patti Wood, an expert in nonverbal communication, said that she counted as many as six winks made by Palin, the first coming just a few minutes into the start of the debate.

While the gesture may seem out of the ordinary for some, Wood said that she thinks Palin's winks were genuine.

"The wink is a natural gesture for her and it works to make the audience feel OK and like we're in this with her and that Palin understands us," said Wood.

Greg Hartley, a former Army interrogator and the author of "I Can Read You Like a Book," agreed that Palin's winks were out of habit.

"Her wink was innate. It's part of her sportslike kind of personality and she's become accustomed to it," said Hartley.

Biden's Restraint: A Smile and a Scratch

With Biden being careful not to appear condescending, sexist or bullying, the senator succeeded in restraining his often shoot-from-the-hip style of speaking by masking his frustration with a toothy smile or fidgeting.

"Biden showed tremendous restraint. There was no way he was going to attack Palin," said Hartley.

"When Biden smiles in that huge way it's a self-defense method," said Hartley. "It was a way to release [his angry] energy."